Monday, August 9, 2010

Movie Review: The Other Guys

Honestly, I can't bring myself to get too animated this Monday morning. Is it because the temperature has decided to settle somewhere between "oh, God, oh GOD IT BURNS" and sitting inside a lava sauna. Maybe it's because I have a ton of work to do this week and not enough time to do it. Maybe it's because as much as The Other Guys had funny moments, there wasn't too much to talk about. If you saw Hot Fuzz, you saw a superior "making fun of buddy cop movies while still being a buddy cop movie" movie. Anyway, here's my review:

In the Line of Doody
The Other Guys is funny, not smart

During the Cold War, an American cinematic action hero could disembowel a “filthy commie” with a Bic pen and remain beloved; in the wake of 9/11, nonspecific Middle Eastern terrorists were omnipresent in film fiction, dispensable evil-doers to be dispatched post haste without remorse. The next step in this proud evolution, The Other Guys officially welcomes financial executives to the guilt-free gunshot victims club.

Writer Chris Henchy and writer/director Adam McKay are so committed to coining this new motif that the end credits unspool alongside deadly serious animated infographics detailing statistics from the corporate bailout, sounding a populist gong about executive bonuses and C.E.O.-to-average-Joe salary ratios. This was at the end of a comedy with a plot point hinging on Will Ferrell having been a pimp named Gator in college who met his doctor wife (Eva Mendes) when he got poison ivy in his rectum.

And don’t go thinking the film somehow earned the right to moralize and wax philosophic about economics through subtly infused inferences. The plot is as sophisticated as a “Maxim” photo shoot. With stereotypical action movie hero detectives Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) out of the picture, perpetually hostile Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) tries to convince his paper-pushing partner Allen Gamble (Ferrell) to “man up” and seize the limelight. The premise is that this is the untold story of the nameless, unknown “extras” who silently appear in police stations in buddy cop movies. But instead of a Hot Fuzz–style satire, we get an ersatz Lethal Weapon redux.

Racing against fellow coppers Martin (Rob Riggle) and Fosse (Damon Wayans Jr) while irritating their Captain (Michael Keaton), Hoitz and Gamble try to solve a case involving a swindling fat cat (Steve Coogan) looking to illegally recoup $32 billion but are impeded by Gamble’s daffy character quirks and Hoitz’s type A++ personality. It all culminates in the most pulse-pounding of climaxes: an attempt to stop someone from signing a piece of paper and to prevent another person from pushing a button. Fear the impressive physical danger of financial villainy!

Until the yawner third-act, The Other Guys fires off the funny, with jokes that are more B.B.-gun pellets than .357 rounds, including character tics like Gamble’s inexplicable appeal to smokin’ hot hotties and Hoitz’s skills at ballet, which the tough guy studied in depth for years to “make fun of” effeminant classmates. Ferrell mostly dials down his worn-out affectations, deploying them in short, controlled bursts. Meanwhile, Wahlberg is his usual self: a pile of anger shaped like a human being. Even his hair seems like it wants to fight. Finally having permission to laugh at him feels liberating.

The last virtually laugh-free half hour is spent on pension embezzling and potshots at the S.E.C., not exactly the ideal resting place for a sophomoric comedy. How McKay thought he had crafted a “message movie” that said something about Bernie Madoff while including scenes of a grandmother graphically describing sexual acts is almost inconceivable. The Other Guys is mildly entertaining and massively trite, what it’s not is significant.

Grade – C+

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